Rochester New York political conference

January 27th, 2007

News Release | January 23, 2007

Ato Obang Metho, director of Anuak Justice Council, and Ato Berhane Mewa of Kinijit leadership engaged in positive Political dialog with Ethiopians living in Upstate New York.

Rochester New York – Sunday, January 21, 2007, the second political conference was held in Rochester. This event was sponsored by Upstate New York Ethiopians for Democracy Support Group, whose purpose is to promote peace and democratic change in Ethiopia. The featured guests were Ato Obang Metho and three Kinijit leadership personalities of which two couldn’t make it due to unforeseen circumstances. Over hundred Ethiopians from the upstate New York region participated in the conference.

Event Proceeding:
We started with a 30 minute video on the December 2003 Ethiopian Anuak massacre by the current Ethiopian government forces.

Then, Ato Obang Metho delivered an uplifting message. After which Ato Berhane Mewa discussed the current political situation in Ethiopia, the condition of Kinijit’s leadership who are in prison, and what Kinijit is doing in leading the struggle for democracy in Ethiopia.

These discussions culminated in a free and open question and answer session.

Finally, the participants were asked and they generously contributed money to defray the cost of the event and to support families of imprisoned political leaders and independent journalist in Ethiopia. In addition, hundreds of signatures were collected in the letters writing campaign. Letters addressed to current Ethiopian government officials, including Prime Mister Meles Zenawi, appealing for the release of all political prisoners; and to local US Congressional members, urging them to support HR5680, were signed and collected.

Question and answer:
Almost all the questions were addressed to Ato Berhane Mewa. Here are some examples; paraphrased and interpreted:
1. We hear that Kinijit is split into three or four groups, is this true?
Answer: (Ato Berhane Mewa) As you know Kinijit is formed by uniting a number of political parties who shared similar democratic values and clear alternate vision for our country when compared to the EPRDF government. Kinijit is more than a political party; it is a self liberating movement, it challenges each one of us to declare our inalienable right to be free. Therefore all Ethiopians who share this vision of individual freedom and engage in the struggle to bring this vision to fruition belong to Kinijit. If individuals choose not to remain in this movement we say they left Kinijit; but it doesn’t mean that Kinijit is split.

2. Is Kinijit doing anything in calling other political organization to form a united front?
Answer: (Ato Berhane Mewa) Kinijit is always open to collaborate and work together with other Political parties and Civic organizations to bring about democratic changes in Ethiopia.

3. Kinijit has been accused of working with Shabia and OLF to destabilize Ethiopia, what do you say to this accusation?
Answer: (Ato Berhane Mewa) Kinijit is not working with the Eritrean government. Kinijit’s mission is not to destabilize Ethiopia, rather to rebuild Ethiopia. OLF is an Ethiopian organization and we believe having a dialogue with OLF and other organizations like it is a positive development of historic proportion. Kinijit believes that through such dialogue we can forge mutual trust which is necessary to maintain a unified “one Ethiopia”?. Failure to having this dialogue will result in continued infighting amongst ourselves and the eventual fragmentation of our country.

4. Do you think the non-violent struggle will work in Ethiopia under the EPRDF rule?
Answer: (Ato Berhane Mewa) Kinijit believes a non-violent way of struggle is a better option for Ethiopia. We do not believe in killing our brothers and sisters to bring about a democratic change in Ethiopia. Any change of government that came through the method of the gun has always been unwilling to heed to the peoples’ demands to relinquish power. Kinijit is not afraid to engage in all peaceful and lawful methods of struggle regardless of the heavy sacrifices it is paying.

5. When Ethiopia is threatened by Somalia Islamic Court Union, should Ethiopia defend herself?
Answer: (Ato Berhane Mewa) Kinijit believes that Ethiopia has the right and the duty to defend her territorial integrity from any aggressor. At the same time Kinijit does not believe in interfering in another country’s internal affairs.

Participants’ overall assessment of the event:
Attendees were very happy for having the opportunity to hold a genuine conversation about the political future of Ethiopia and of her people. Many believe in Ato Obang’s message of hope for the future of our country and a call to action to be actively working for the realization of this hope. The audience agreed that his message ought to be heard again and again by all Ethiopians. Ato Berhane Mewa’s explanation of Kinijit as a self-liberating movement that is inclusive of all Ethiopians was a powerful concept.

May God bring a better time for Ethiopia and her people!!

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